Anthony Wayne senior pitcher Emily Kurfis is 14-1 with a 1.18 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 34 innings. At the plate, she is hitting .298 with 14 RBIs. The Generals are 16-1 and ranked sixth in Ohio in Division I.
For nearly two decades the Anthony Wayne softball program has crafted an identity of consistent quality, so these Generals should command respect.
Yet despite being the defending Northern Lakes League champs and a regional semifinalist, Anthony Wayne was picked in a preseason poll of league coaches to finish fourth. The Generals had won or shared four of the last five titles, but they lost four big hitters and a key pitcher to graduation.
But AW has quickly quieted the skeptics. The Generals (16-1, 7-0 NLL) are sixth in the Ohio High School Softball Coaches Association poll. The team's only setback was a 2-1 loss to Archbold, which is ranked No. 2 in the state in Division III.
Veteran coach Carolyn Vogtsberger, who is in her 18th season and has 349 career wins, led the Generals to a state title in 2003. She said the preseason poll gave her team incentive.
"We've totally used it as motivation. We are an established program and we reload," Vogtsberger said. "We have a saying this year, 'We know who we are and we know where we are going.' We got way underrated as the season started. But our goal is always to win the league and always to win state."
The Generals, who reached the regional semifinals last year, have jumped out of the gate behind the pitching of senior ace Emily Kurfis. The four-year starter has struck out 143 batters in 83 innings of work.
"We know we are Anthony Wayne softball and we carry a great tradition," Kurfis said. "We know inside we can win. We know who we are and we know our goal is to win the NLL and a state championship. We have the will this year."
Nicole Del Monte, a senior right fielder, is batting .326 with 12 RBIs and leads the team with five doubles.
Senior first baseman Jamie Westenkirchner, who is hitting at a .429 clip, leads the team in RBIs with 20.
"Our goal is always to win the league and always to win state. It doesn't matter what other people think," Westenkirchner said. "We have the ability. We just have to make sure we focus. We're up for the challenge."
Vogtsberger said her team is strong in all three phases: defense, hitting, and pitching.
"What makes us good is that we are so well rounded," Vogtsberger said.
The Generals have already defeated two teams who were predicted to finish ahead of them. They swept Perrysburg and have beaten Springfield once. They play preseason favorite Southview Friday and on May 19.
The Generals' junior varsity was 20-2 last year and some of those talented players couldn't crack the varsity lineup. Vogtsberger said she has eight players that can hit home runs.
Senior center fielder Sarah Bores is scorching the ball with a team-high .444 batting average. The three-year varsity starter also leads the team in stolen bases with 12 and in runs scored with 22.
Bores is ranked No. 1 in her class with a 4.6 grade-point average.
"She can hit home runs or put down a drag bunt. She is hard to defend," Vogtsberger said. "She is really fast and has a high on base percentage [.492]."
Westenkirchner also has smacked a team-high three home runs.
Dana Gill, a junior utility player, is hitting .333 and has 12 RBIs for the Generals.
"She's our spiritual leader. She gets people up," Vogtsberger said. "She puts the ball in play. She can bunt and get base hits."
Junior shortstop Brianna Megyesi is hitting .373 with 12 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases. Megyesi has struck out just once all season.
"Bre has grown a lot on offense and defense," Vogtsberger said. "She gets to every ball and she can take a hit. She bats No. 2 but she is like another lead-off hitter."
Junior utility player Dana Gill has a .333 average and has 12 RBIs.
Senior right fielder Nicole Del Monte leads the Generals with five doubles. Del Monte also is hitting .326 with 12 RBIs.
"Nicole has picked it up lately. She's a good hitter as well," Vogtsberger said.
Junior left fielder Marisa Shook, who has verbally committed to play at Bowling Green State University, has a .302 average. Shook also leads the team with three triples and also has 10 RBIs.
Kurfis is 14-1 with a 1.18 ERA. In a doubleheader last Saturday, Kurfis struck out 22 batters.
"I have confidence in the defense behind me," Kurfis said. "So I can throw whatever I want."
Kurfis has consistently helped her own cause. She has a .298 average with 14 RBIs and has not struck out this season (47 at bats).
Jamie Westenkirchner, a senior first baseman, has a .429 batting average and leads the team with 20 RBIs and three home runs.
Junior back up pitcher Lydia George is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA. She has 48 strikeouts in 34 innings.
"I feel like everyone is stepping up and no one person takes the credit," Westenkirchner said.
Westenkirchner said Vogtsberger allows the players to help run the team.
"We do have fun, but we're serious when we get between the lines," Westenkirchner said. "We always have to bear down. We discipline ourselves. We know we have a goal of going to state and coach always said we know what we have to do to get there."
To further the continuity of the program, the team's two assistants are former AW players. Kara Hensley, the starting third baseman on the state title team, works with the pitchers. Kim Vogtsberger, the coach's daughter, has been around the program since she was a ball girl.
Kurfis said she has been around the program since she was in the third grade. She was a team manager when her sister Erica played. She has started on the varsity since she was a freshman, but last year split time with graduated senior Dani Haley.
"I grew up with Anthony Wayne softball," Kurfis said. "When I was younger I always wore their clothes. I wanted to play varsity softball there. It feels great to help out the team."
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com or 419-724-6354.